Saturday, January 24, 2015


Like the Bahamas, which insists on that definite article, so we should also speak of the Bermudas, plural, or actually The Somers Isles, which was the name when the Somers Isles Company was established in 1615 to operate the islands as a business. Today they are a British Overseas Territory, which is not the same as an independent country that still has the Queen as its head of state, and the Somers Isles Shipping Company still exists, as its Facebook page confirms, without a Royal Charter now, but definitely doing charter for both goods and people.

The original Somers was Sir George, an Admiral of the Virginia Company, one of whose ships, the Sea Venture, was trying to get to Jamestown in 1609 when a storm started tearing it apart, and Sir George deliberately drove it onto the reefs as the only way to save the men. The reefs turned out to be one of the islands which Juan de Bermúdez had discovered and named in 1503, but Somers could not have known that, because Bermúdez never actually set foot on the island, despite claiming it for Spain, and some of his Spanish compadres later setting some pigs loose across the island. When the ship was rebuilt and left at last for Jamestown, Sir George stayed behind to claim the islands for England. 

Functioning as a British Overseas Territory (BOT), the Bermudas have their own government, which officially advises the governor-general who is the Queen’s representative, though in fact this is only lip-service because neither the Queen nor her representative like to get involved in local politics. This is not the same as an independent country such as Australia or Canada which have chosen to retain the Queen as their sovereign; they have their own government, which officially advises the governor-general who is the Queen’s representative, though in fact this is only lip-service because neither the Queen nor…wait a moment; isn’t that exactly the same thing? To which the answer is yes it is, except that in a BOT defence and foreign policy are handled by the Queen, not through her governor but through her Parliament in the UK, while independent countries are considered to be mature enough to handle matters of defence and foreign policy on their own.

Bermuda considered switching from Overseas Territory to Independent in 1995, but a referendum defeated the idea by a very large majority. Bermuda, by the way, has the fifth oldest still-running parliament in the world, having set up in 1620, when the British first colonised the islands. 

The main sources of income are tourism are what is now euphemistically called the “offshore finances market” – money laundering, and global corporations who don’t want to pay taxes. Most of the British Caribbean has membership of this criminal fraternity; the only difference between them being matters of scale and the sources of finance. At risk of having the host of this blog upset with me, I note that Google, for example, moved more than ten billion dollars in revenue to its Bermuda subsidiary in 2010, utilising tax avoidance strategies known as "Double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich", and thereby reducing its 2011 tax liability by $2 billion dollars; I do not have the figures for 2012 or 2013, but it is safe to assume it will have been of the same order. Legal theft, however you choose to justify it. Large numbers of leading international insurance companies likewise operate out of Bermuda, though few if any actually operate inside Bermuda. Oh, and in the Bermudas, because of the scale of tourism, there is no income tax, neither for individuals nor for corporations, but consumption tax is very high, as are import duties and payroll taxes. The government makes far more money out of fancy meals and yachts than from the money they can reclaim from fishermen and waitresses, and the money launderers and corporate tax evaders take their incomes in their home countries anyway.

Marks For: 3

Marks Against: 6

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment